Emily Manwaring, Swans Nwa pandan Matinée, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Canada.
Portrait of Christiana Ine-Kimba Boyle by Shaniqwa Jarvis. Courtesy of Christiana Ine-Kimba Boyle.
If you had to pick just one word to summarize Christiana Ine-Kimba Boyle’s career to date, it would be “innovation.” Recently appointed as Pace Gallery’s first-ever director of online sales this past spring, at just 28, Boyle’s accomplishments are already daunting. While still at college, she launched an online beauty brand to sell vintage perfumes and went on to expand it across four online marketplaces. When the pandemic hit, Boyle learned to code through YouTube tutorials and built an online viewing room for New York gallery Canada, where she was senior director.
She attributes this laser focus to her education. “My schooling is really what prepared me and inspired me to work in the art world,” she said. “My parents put me in a magnet school in New York, which was literally across the street from the Hudson River Museum, so a lot of my school programming was held there.”
Qualeasha Wood, fore the day you die, you gon’ touch the sky, 2021. Courtesy of the artist and Canada.
Kylie Manning, Squall, 2021. © Kylie Manning. Courtesy of anonymous gallery and Pace Gallery.
This early exposure to the art world prompted Boyle to study art history and business administration in college, where she started to think about how to turn her passion into a career. “Originally, I wanted to be a curator within an institution. But I really wanted to have a well-rounded view of what the art world was comprised of and the different industries that were at hand,” she explained. “I thought, ‘I’m studying business; let me figure out how to navigate the commercial side of the art world.’ That’s when I started interning for galleries and auction houses.”
Following internships and volunteer positions at the American Folk Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, C24 Gallery, Paddle8, and Gagosian, Boyle held several sales positions at commercial arts organizations including Lehmann Maupin and Loretta Howard Gallery, before joining Canada gallery in 2019. It was here that Boyle made her physical curatorial debut with “Black Femme: Sovereign of WAP and the Virtual Realm.”
Sydney Vernon, installation view, from left to right, of Untying Loose Ends, 2021; and Tying Loose Ends, 2020, in “Black Femme: Sovereign of WAP and the Virtual Realm” at Canada, 2021. Courtesy of Canada, New York.
A playful nod to the sexually charged single by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, the term “WAP” in “Black Femme” stands for “wireless application protocol,” a standardized, independent code that allows Wi-Fi devices to connect to a wired network. Riffing on the concept of digital representation, connection, and standardized frameworks, Boyle brought together the work of six Black women artists who use digital and analog mediums to “dismantle the restrictive societal confines imposed on the black femme body.”
At her current curatorial debut at Pace, Boyle continues her exploration of corporeal and representational themes. On view through October 23rd online and at Pace’s New York space, “Convergent Evolutions: The Conscious of Body Work” pairs artists from Boyle’s preexisting network with those from Pace’s program. The exhibition examines how these 17 intergenerational artists manipulate the ways in which viewers interact with and experience their works. “It’s exploring ways in which the body is displayed within space, but also the ways in which the viewer’s body reacts to the image as they’re trying to gain access,” explained Boyle.
Chibuike Uzoma, One Had A Lovely Face, 2020. © Chibuike Uzoma. Courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery.
Highlights from the show include Rachel Eulena Williams’s Systems (2021), a series of interconnected tondos that represent an outstretched body; Caitlin Cherry’s Quaternion (2021), a figurative painting framed to resemble the elliptical shape of an IMAX screen; and Chibụike Ụzọma’s The Surge Of A Poem (2) (2021), which uses a variety of painted visual markers to obscure its figurative elements and is installed within a box. “It is quite literally contained and separated from the viewer so you can only view it through a glass window,” said Boyle of Ụzọma’s work.
Like many of the exhibitions held in the post-lockdown world, “Convergent Evolutions” exists in both physical and online iterations, adding another dimension to its themes of obstruction and abstraction. “Viewing [works] online individually, you are able to zoom in, but not actually catch the texture or different types of nuances that you would be able to access within a physical show,” Boyle said. “It’s interesting to see the ways in which people respond differently to work online versus in person: sometimes better, sometimes worse.”
Installation view, from left to right, of Jo Baer, The Rod Reversed (Mixing Memory and Desire), 1988; Anthony Olubunmi Akinbola, Black piece CAMOUFLAGE #005 (Rick James), 2021; and Caitlin Cherry, Quaternion, 2021, in “Convergent Evolutions: The Conscious of Body” at Pace Gallery, 2021. Courtesy of Pace Gallery, New York.
Although some have suggested that online viewing rooms are less relevant now that galleries and art fairs are starting to reopen, Boyle disagrees: “Online viewing rooms were created to solve an issue in relation to sales, but I think they have such a larger and broader use now,” she said. She pointed to Pace’s “In Focus” series—a set of online viewing rooms that unpack the context behind the gallery’s physical exhibitions and provide access to imagery and information relating to an artist and their practice. “You would have to work really hard to get that typically,” Boyle said. “That’s invaluable and I don’t see that going out of style anytime soon.”
Boyle said a greater focus on online viewing rooms has also allowed Pace to reach new audiences that it “typically wouldn’t be able to access confined within the white cube.” It also allows the gallery to be more transparent about the inner workings of the art market: “I think there are a lot of people that are tired of the sometimes misleading ways in which art sales are typically conducted,” she said. “Being online removes the smoke and mirrors.”
Lucas Samaras, Sittings 8 x 10, 2/21/80, 1980. © Lucas Samaras. Courtesy of Pace Gallery.
Rachel Eulena Williams, Systems, 2021. © Rachel Eulena Williams. Courtesy of Canada and Pace Gallery.
This engagement with new technologies is not new for Pace. The gallery was the first to set up an offering in Silicon Valley; it already accepts cryptocurrency as a form of payment for both digital and physical artworks; and under Boyle’s direction, it will become the first blue-chip gallery to create a dedicated platform for selling NFTs later this year.
While many have been drawn to the NFT market by online hype and the promise of lucrative sales, Boyle said Pace’s first priority is to create an “artists-first focus.” As part of this new venture, the gallery is planning to support its artists who are interested in creating NFTs. “It’s very important with any of our artists who we’re working with, that they feel completely guided and shepherded,” she said. “And how easier to do that than with new endeavors like this?”
Installation view, from left to right, of works by Chibuike Uzoma; and Anna Park, Free Fall, 2021, in “Convergent Evolutions: The Conscious of Body” at Pace Gallery, 2021. Courtesy of Pace Gallery, New York.
“I definitely do think that there is a confidence in having this branded under Pace’s name,” Boyle said of the NFT platform. Judging by the pre-launch, where two unique editions by Lucas Samaras sold within two days, there is certainly interest in NFTs from Pace artists.
Looking ahead, Boyle is acutely aware of the challenges she faces as part of the vanguard of industry leaders building confidence in online sales. Right now, her most pressing priority is improving the online viewing experience and facilitating higher-value transactions. But as always, Boyle is already ahead of what’s on the horizon. Under her leadership, Pace’s online offering is not only here to stay, but is an integral part of an ongoing push toward revolutionizing the art market.